Talk about a career change.

Jefferson Harralson, a veteran bank analyst at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, has left the investment bank after 15 years to become the chief financial officer at United Community Banks in Blairsville, Ga.

Harralson succeeded Rex Schuette, who is retiring. Schuette will remain with United during a transition period.

The appointment “follows an extensive national search for a well-suited executive to oversee the company’s financial operations,” Jimmy Tallent, the chairman and CEO of the $10.7 billion-asset United’s chairman and CEO, said in a press release Monday.

Harralson “will play a key role in the development and execution of United’s financial strategies during a period of significant growth,” Tallent added. “He is an experienced financial leader whose knowledge of the banking industry will be invaluable as we execute our business strategy over the next several years.”

Harralson joined KBW months after the investment bank’s research team was decimated by the 9/11 attacks. His primary focus has been following small and midsize banks.

Harralson covered 23 banks for KBW, including United Community. The investment bank reacted to his departure by reassigning oversight of 14 banks to Catherine Mealor and Brady Gailey and suspending coverage of eight other financial institutions.

KBW dropped coverage of EverBank Financial, which has agreed to be sold.

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